The Steam Next Fest demos I enjoyed the most | Kaser Focus

Now that the showcases from Summer Game Fest are behind us, we can all get to the work of playing the actual games. The deluge of trailers is all well and good, and I’m especially pleased with the fact that so many indie games received screentime across all of the shows. However, a trailer is not a game — to truly get a feel for an upcoming game, a demo is still your best choice, despite the greater time investment upfront. Enter Steam Next Fest, the demo-rich platform event where we can actually try several of the games we saw at the show.

I played several demos at this Next Fest (though admittedly, not as many as I would have liked). So I thought I’d report to all of you which games I tried that I connected with the most. They’re not in any order, and I don’t have a particular favorite, but I’m happy to shout out the demos I felt deserved some form of recognition.

  • Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn: This third-person action game has a lot of steampunk-meets-mysticism personality in its art design and story, while the gameplay was solid at least for the demo. For some reason, it was very difficult for my computer to run properly.
  • Trash Goblin: This is a cozy fantasy game about cleaning and upcycling junk. It’s got a fairly simple gameplay loop and doesn’t offer a whole lot of variety at this early stage, but what I saw was very promising and had a lot of room for expansion and refinement.
  • The Operator: It’s an analog horror game where you’re playing an operator (info-gatherer) for the not-FBI. Some of the voice acting still sounds placeholder-y, but otherwise the demo gave an excellent glimpse of the game’s insidious thriller story, with a big twist at the end.
  • The Alters: This third-person title looks like an action-adventure game, but in practice plays more like a thriller-strategy. The controls can feel a little fiddly (the eternal question arises of why I can clamber over this bit of rock but not this one), but it’s got a great story hook to build on.
  • Fantastic Haven: In a nutshell, fantasy Zoo Tycoon. You must build a sanctuary for fantasy animals, who are in danger of going extinct thanks to the diminishing magic in the world. Other than the enchanted setting, it feels a lot like other zoo management sims — and I’m okay with that!
  • Tiny Bookshop: Another cozy game, this one about managing a bookshop on wheels in a beautiful seaside town. The graphics are adorable and the atmosphere is relaxing, though sometimes it feels like the player doesn’t have much input on the outcome of each day.
  • Spilled!: Chalk another one up for the cozies, as here you pilot a boat cleaning up spilled oil and trash in bodies of water. It’s got a simple but effective gameplay loop. I would love to see the developer partner with a conservation charity to give more education on what we’re doing.
  • Dungeons of Hinterberg: This colorful action-RPG promises a fun exploration experience in the demo, though I feel that combat is a bit too simplistic at times. But that’s okay, I’m here for the puzzles and the adventure, not so much the hacky-slashy.

In personal news, I’ll be taking a break from demos for a while to dive into some Game Pass releases I’ve not had a chance to try yet. There’s Still Wakes the Deep, which may or may not trigger my thalassophobia, and the cute game Rolling Hills — nah, I’m just kidding. I’m going to try out Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree. Hope springs eternal that I’m going to be better at it than I have been at any other soulslike game in the past.

What to play this week

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  • Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree
  • Still Wakes the Deep
  • Dystopika
  • Times & Galaxy
  • Skye: The Misty Isle
  • Metal Slug Attack Reloaded
  • Echo Generation: Midnight Edition

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  • Keplerth (Xbox Game Pass)
  • Monster Hunter Rise (PlayStation Plus Extra+Premium)
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  • Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 6 (PlayStation Plus Extra+Premium)
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  • Kayak VR: Mirage (PlayStation Plus Premium)
  • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (PlayStation Plus Premium)
  • Ghosthunter (PlayStation Plus Premium)
  • Daxter (PlayStation Plus Premium)
  • As Dusk Falls (GeForce Now)
  • Tell Me Why (GeForce Now)
  • Perfect Dark (Nintendo Switch Online)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – Four Swords (Nintendo Switch Online)
  • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo Switch Online)
  • Metroid: Zero Mission (Nintendo Switch Online)

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